…or a complete one.
BENTLEY BRING AND BRAAI CRICKET MATCH – 20 JULY 2008
Big Match Build Up
Hailing a brave new world, the annual Z/Yen v The Children’s Society cricket match had been laid to rest as a fixture. Several of the original protagonists worked for neither organisation. Further, numerous transfers and inter-marriages had occurred over the years. It now seemed more fitting for the match to be renamed appropriately. Ian Harris Invitation XI v Charles Bartlett Invitation XI sounded good. Charles agreed to design a new trophy. Even Dot Bartlett thought that “The Harris/Bartlett Trophy” sounded very grand, but Charles’ ego couldn’t sanction the title that way round, so the new trophy was named The Bartlett/Harris Trophy.
As the day of the big match approached, both captains were busy making their plans of campaign, more or less as usual. Some things never change.
In order to cultivate a rich seam of talent, Ian had engaged the services of Heinrich The Gangmaster, who had in any case long-since moved on from The Children’s Society and was doing a great deal of work for Z/Yen. Ian therefore claimed rights over Heinrich and his entire South African entourage. Since Albus, top talent that he is, had married Fran from Z/Yen and led the way to a classic victory in 2007, it seemed only fitting that Heinrich’s entire gang switched allegiance.
There were fierce salvos of e-mail and a few frosty telephone and face-to-face exchanges, mostly revolving around size and shape of players. “No giants” was the gist of it, but definitions and playing conditions as usual got blurred in the debate.
Heinrich The Gangmaster was trying to be helpful when Ian spoke with him on the telephone. “We can easily put together a winning team”, said Heinrich, “Rubeus is available, for example”. “But Rubeus is a giant”, said Ian, “and I have promised Charles that we’d not field any giants”. “Rubeus is only half-giant”, said Heinrich, unhelpfully, “but what about Lucius and Draco?” “They’re evil”, said Ian, “I can only field players who we can be sure won’t try to take the opposition’s heads off”. “What’s happened to your sense of fun?”, asked Heinrich. “I lost it when you arranged for all of those giants and unhinged people to play against my team a couple of years ago,” Ian replied. “I think I get the message”, said Heinrich.
Meanwhile Charles was taking no chances. To counter the perceived threat, Charles Bartlett had cunningly ensured that he had access to the services of as many Bentley CC players as he might need, plus the festering talent pool of Tufty Stackpole, as well as the Children’s Society people, their friends and relations.
Of course, you wouldn’t guess any of that from the discussions between Charles and Ian. “Not sure I can even get eleven people,” said Charles on one occasion, “been let down left right and centre. Even that Bentley lad, Andy, is doubtful now.” “We can always see if Heinrich the Gangmaster can find us some more South African hired hands,” said Ian. “Funny you should mention that”, said Charles, “as I believe The Children’s Society has a couple of Heinrich’s mob back on their books again”. “But no giants”, said both Charles and Ian in unison.
Meanwhile Dot Bartlett took on the unenviable task of arranging the most important element of the fixture: the catering for the day. She was none too pleased when the original choice of caterers helpfully informed her that the firm had been taken over and that the new owners “wouldn’t get out of bed” for a poxy little catering contract like ours. But Dot scrambled around and found a suitable alternative, little knowing that Heinrich The Gangmaster had his own ideas.
The Day of the Match – Ian Harris Invitation XI Innings
Come the toss, Ian was a little concerned that two members of his team were still missing: Michael and Elisabeth Mainelli. Even more concerned was Ian when he lost the toss and was promptly inserted by Charles, as Ian was planning on opening the batting together with Michael. It was a cunning plan. Ian was to do his regular sandpaper bit, while Michael was to “pinch hit” using the baseball stance and technique which worked rather well against Barnardo’s 10 years ago.
But the Mainelli family arrived just in the nick of time. The Mainelli’s came as a gang of four, including daughter Xenia (only the cruel and misguided suggest that Xenia was named after the business) and their priest, Father Bill (taking no chances this time, we nearly needed the last rites read more than once last time those big Saffers played).
“There’s a zoo, there’s a zoo”, shouted Xenia excitedly as they arrived. “I can see zebra, wildebeeste, crocodiles, ostriches and snakes”.
“That’s not a zoo”, explained Michael, “it looks as though the Saffers have brought some food with them. This looks distinctly like a ‘bring and braii’ to me. If I’d known, I’d have brought some charismatic mega fauna with me as an offering.”
Meanwhile, Elisabeth was protesting that she had no suitable clothing or even footwear, as Michael had forgotten to tell her that she was playing today. A very brief panic ensued, until Heinrich reminded Ian that we could, if utterly desperate, engage the services of Antonius Bloch, his former flatmate. While Charles was remonstrating that Ian’s team was sleezing in a last-minute Saffer giant, Henirich assured everyone that Antonius’s only known sporting prowess was at chess. Indeed, we could se Antonius playing with a rather shadowy-looking figure as we spoke. Ominously, Father Bill was mumbling incantations at rapid speed while keeping a very safe distance from the chess-players.
While Elisabeth was remonstrating with Michael that she would have gladly played had she only been told that she was in the team, Ian was simultaneously rushing Michael into his pads and various protective clothing, all the while speaking in tongues about “pinch hitting”, “run rates”, “leg side”, “cow corner” and such like.
The problem was, of course, that in the intervening years Michael had seen a fair smattering of cricket and even been to see some 1st class matches, so he had seen how batting was supposed to be done. So Michael ignored all this strange instructions and simply knuckled down to emulate the technique he had observed.
Several years seemed to pass as Michael and Ian’s opening partnership got underway. The entire crowd fell into a deep and profound slumber, except for Heinrich the Braaier and his Assistant Braaier, Severus.
Suddenly there was a terrifying roar, the sound of a wild beast in agony.
“Jou dom stuk kak, Severus”, yelled Heinrich, “I’ve told you before, man, don’t put live wildebeeste onto the braai”.
“I didn’t, man, that yell was Ian saying ‘no’ to a run”, said Severus, sheepishly.
“Sorry man. Score still nought for nought then?”, asked Heinrich.
“Something like that”, said Severus.
No amount of pleading managed to persuade Michael to try a scoring shot, despite his pinch hitting role, but eventually he was put out of his misery and Matt joined Ian at the crease. Matt didn’t find it much easier than Ian and Michael to get the ball off the square of the pudding-like wicket. Eventually Matt decided to play a straight one, played across it, and Charles Bartlett had clean bowled Matt of all people! Some say that Charles did himself some permanent damage celebrating that wicket, while others insist that the damage had been caused a long time ago through Charles’ strange habit of not wearing a box when batting.